Do you frequently feel consumed by strong feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, or other emotions? Do these feelings consume your days and make it hard to focus on much else? Do you wish you could do something about them? Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, might be the answer you are looking for.
DBT is a type of talk therapy, based on CBT, designed to help people who feel intense emotions. DBT is used to help clients understand and accept difficult feelings, learn the skills to manage those feelings, live in the moment, and make positive changes in their lives. CBT and DBT differ in the fact that CBT focuses on changing unhelpful ways of thinking or behaving, DBT does this too but it also focuses on personal acceptance.
How does DBT work?
The first part of DBT is understanding. It is about understanding who you are and what you value personally. Then, with the therapist, you identify why you might be participating in self-destructive behaviors or why you struggle with managing your emotions. A therapist may help to validate your emotions and explain that you may be harming yourself as a response to intense emotions.
DBT teaches mindfulness skills. It is important that DBT clients learn how to live in the present moment. You will learn how to pay attention to what is happening inside of you (your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses). You also learn how to use your senses to tune in to what is happening around you in a nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness skills help you to slow down and stay calm, not focusing on the past or the future, but rather what is happening right now.
Distress tolerance is another skill set that is taught during DBT. The idea is to accept yourself and your current situation. Several techniques are taught for crisis management including distraction (going on a walk or running up and down stairs allowing emotions to follow your body), improving the moment, self-soothing, and thinking of the positives and negatives of not tolerating the distress. The idea is to prepare you for intense emotions by giving you the tools you need to cope.
DBT also teaches relationship assertiveness. You will learn to say “no” and to express your needs. This skill is designed to help keep relationships positive and healthy. Clients learn to listen and communicate more effectively, deal with challenging people, and respect themselves and others.
The final part of DBT is emotion regulation. You will learn to navigate powerful feelings in a more effective way. You will learn to identify your emotions when you are feeling them and to change them. For example, “I am mad that xyz happened but on the positive side now I can do xyz.” When you are able to recognize and cope with intense negative emotions it reduces your emotional vulnerability and helps you have more positive emotional experiences. Another example of an exercise is called opposite action where a client will identify how they are feeling and do the opposite, for example, they are sad and want to withdraw from friends and instead make plans to go out.
What does DBT treat?
DBT was originally intended to treat Borderline Personality Disorder but it has also been proven effective for those struggling with depression, self-harming, attention-deficient disorder, suicidal thoughts or attempts, substance abuse problems, and eating disorders. It has also been used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
As with other forms of treatment, DBT is more successful in clients who have a desire and strong commitment toward making positive changes in their lives. It is best if the client is ready to work hard and do homework assignments. Clients should be ready to focus on their present and future rather than the past.
Unsure if DBT is right for you? Call us at Rooted & Rising at 412-228-8489 to schedule an appointment with a licensed mental health professional who can determine if DBT may be a good choice for you.
Learn more about DBT here: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dialectical-behavioral-therapy
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